Musings, politics and environmental issues

Posts tagged ‘Africa’

Weapons carrier wants to fly budget flights from Iceland

Two prospective new airlines have surfaced over the last few days in Iceland, which both intend to pick up the pieces from the now-defunct WOW Air and offer low-cost flights from Iceland to Europe and the US.

The first to be announced has the tentative working name of WAB – We are Back – and intends to fly to 14 US and European cities. Two ex-WOW executives are involved, and funding is mostly being provided by an Irish investment fund, Avianta Capital, which is owned by the daughter of one of the owners of Ryan Air, Aislinn Whittley-Ryan. You can read more about it here.

Then last night it was announced that a US company had bought most of what’s left of WOW Air, and had also requested to use the hangars previously used for WOW planes. Initially the name of the company was not revealed, but now it turns out that the company is probably Oasis Aviation Services. Like WAB, the idea is to run a low-cost airline.

Oasis specializes in transporting weapons from the US to Africa through its hub in Djibouti. Not nice! Their website calls it “Internationalist Air Cargo – Specialist in US Military Cargo”.

Oasis is owned by Michele Ballarin, a wealthy woman with links to Somalia who is also known there as Amira Ballarin, meaning Princess Ballarin. Besides breeding Lippizaner horses there, she has also been involved in many other activities, to various degrees of legality. You can read about her activities here.

Since WOW stopped flying at the end of March, tourist numbers have dropped dramatically – which is not surprising, as most people would have booked their summer holidays by then and those who had booked flights to Iceland with WOW would have had to rebook with another airline. With limited seat availability compared to the number who wanted to come, flight prices increased phenomenally and no doubt became out of reach for the average traveller. Tourist operators are worried.

Whether both airlines will eventually be flying to and from Iceland remains to be seen – I personally doubt that the market can support both of them  – but I would much prefer WAB to the Oasis lot.

Update 7 September: It was announced yesterday that Ballarin’s lot will start flying from October to the USA (Washington Dulles airport), under the trade name WOW. Later they will fly to other cities.

Update 5 November: Well, forget the September update. Flying to the US will start next year but they will start flying to six European cities this month. They had a press conference this morning and are calling the new airline Play . Their website (which is primitive at the moment) is here.



Disturbing report on health and environment issues in Africa

According to a new report called African Environment Outlook-3, Africa’s leaders should prioritise the implementation of environment and health issues if growing challenges such as air pollution, vector-borne diseases and chemical exposure are to be addressed. The report points out that environmental risks contribute 28% of Africa’s disease burden. Diarrhoea, respiratory infections and malaria account for 60% of known environmental health impacts in Africa.

Particulate matter is of particular concern in rural areas: many people do not have access to clean stoves so indoor air pollution is a problem. The low combustion efficiency of solid fuels used for cooking and heating in rural Africa, combined with poor ventilation, often results in concentrations of indoor air pollution 10-30 times over WHO limits. In Angola, 6.9% of the national disease burden is attributable to solid fuel use; in Malawi, the figure is 5.2%.

Degradation of the environment is another concern, as 80% of Africa’s rural population depends on traditional medicine and a large number of fungi, fruit and vegetables are harvested from the wild. Over-harvesting and climate change also contribute to biodiversity degradation and imbalances in predator-prey relationships that may create conditions for disease outbreak.

Chemicals are another problem. In the Ivory Coast, the National Centre for Agronomical Research in Abidjan estimates that 65% of the illnesses suffered by market gardeners, cotton growers, mango producers and consumers are due to pesticides.

The Fourth Assessment of the IPCC pointed out that Africa is warming faster than the global average, and that climate-sensitive diseases may increase with warming. In this context, the report highlights Rift Valley Fever, which affects both people and livestock; cholera, associated with floods; meningitis, associated with prolonged warming; and malaria, which has become a problem in hitherto unexposed areas, such as the highlands of Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania, because of global warming.

The report says that in some cases policies exist to address the problem, but problems exist concerning the implementation of these policies.

These are just some of the issues highlighted in the report. A summary can be found here, while the report as a whole can be accessed here.

Read it. I’m not sure if there’s anything we can do as individuals, but at least we should highlight the issue to others in our circuits.